Entrepreneurs fire up the barbecue
September 11, 2015
Daniel Barton has always loved eating meat fresh off the grill or smoker but he has never considered himself a barbecue buff and certainly never imagined owning a restaurant.
But when an opportunity arose for Barton, an investment banker by trade, and his wife, Stephanie, to become franchisees of the barbecue chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, they didn’t hesitate to open wide and bite in. And after nearly eight months of round-the-clock work, they recently opened a Park City area Dickey’s location, at 1241 Center Drive in Newpark.
"I guess I’m just an entrepreneur," Daniel Barton said. "We’ve got five condos that we own by the University of Utah and rent out. It just makes sense. And rather than buy a few more condos, we figured, ‘Hey, why don’t we see what the next level up is?’ We wanted to try this out because it looked like a good opportunity.
"I would probably never open a restaurant like ‘Daniel and Stephanie’s Barbecue,’" he added. "But partnering with a franchise makes it a lot easier. They’ve already got everything established and know what you have to do in order to make a company successful."
While Daniel has handled much of the business side of things, Stephanie is the one with a passion for food. She has always been interested in restaurants and catering, so owning her own restaurant is a childhood dream realized. That’s one reason the Bartons, who live in Salt Lake City, plan to be active participants in their restaurant, rather than absentee franchisees.
"This is our baby," Stephanie said. "We want to keep it nice and beautiful and make it a great place for customers."
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The Bartons originally contemplated opening a Dickey’s in Salt Lake, near the campus of the University of Utah. But when negotiations with a landlord there stalled, they changed course, choosing instead to come to Park City. They have set their sights on taking advantage of the amount of tourists who flock to the area and the Bartons’ perceived lack of competing barbecue joints in town.
"We’re hoping to capitalize on a unique market, where you’ve got three million people coming to visit annually," said Daniel, who grew up in Sandy and has long enjoyed frequenting Park City to recreate. "We’ll see how things go. It seemed like we’d be able to tap into some good resources here."
Stephanie is hopeful people in Park City will quickly come to view Dickey’s a mainstay. While it is a part of a chain, the restaurant aims for authenticity, she said. She recently spent a month in Dallas learning the Dickey’s process, and claims the chain’s formula for success has "stood the test of time," since the first location opened in 1941.
But, the Bartons know, the proof will be in the barbecue. And that’s just fine by them. Stephanie said the meat, which is marinated for 24 hours, then smoked overnight, is prepared just like it would be at a mom-and-pop joint in a small Texas town.
"A lot of people probably think that we just stick the meat in the microwave," she said. "But it’s a true process. It gets smoked overnight and takes a long time."
But barbecue is not the only thing the Bartons have had on their minds in the months leading up to the restaurant’s opening. They are parents to a six-month-old son, meaning trying to get the restaurant off the ground — all while Daniel has maintained his job as an investment banker — has been a mad dash.
While overwhelming at times, they have met the challenge. For his part, Daniel has drawn inspiration from his mother, who raised four children alone and made time to earn her Master’s Degree and run marathons. She taught him not to shy away from a tough task.
"People generally don’t know what they’re capable of until they really push themselves," he said. "Even though we’ve got a lot on our plate, it’s like, ‘Let’s do it. Bring it on.’ It feels like we’re running 100 miles per hour right now because everything is moving so fast, but if you never try it and you sit on the sidelines, you’re missing out."
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
1241 Center Drive